Today is a personal blog post. I’m a bit sick of writing the technical stuff of book cover design so it’s time for a break. You’ve probably arrived here looking to learn something new about book cover design, but did you know I’ve been writing for over fifteen years?
Here are 10 things you might not know about me and my writing life:
1. My pen name is Scarlett Archer. Years ago it used to be Scarlett Marsden but I always got flack from people, saying “Did you get that from John Marsden?”
As a teenager, in Australia, in the John Marsden era this simply wouldn’t do so I used my nephew’s name for my last name. If you haven’t read the Tomorrow Series- the first being Tomorrow, When The War Began, get your hands on a copy ASAP.
You can check out my author website over at www.scarlett-archer.com . Don’t mistake me for Scarlet Archer (one t). Google is your friend, if you want to know why.
2. I’ve been writing since 1998. That’s fifteen years of writing. I’ve written over ten books, one is a four book series about the use of mental powers as the next step of human evolution, a cult culture, and the influence of belief. Sounds super boring but I promise, it’s not! It is on the back shelf however.
3. My first two books published are: 1001 First Lines and Oscar & Josephine. One is non-fiction, one is fiction.
4. I’m a 7 year winner of NaNoWriMo, a 3rd year retiree. I’m still a little bit a part of the Melbourne community but it’s because I have so many friends involved with NaNo every year. If you’re looking to spend a November in a different city some time, Melbourne is the shiznit. We have drinkies, write-ins, and word wars aplenty!
5. In my first year I finished 50,000 words in a week, in second year it was 3 1/2 days, in my third year it was 2 1/2 days. I knew if I really stuck at it I could get it under 48 hours but pushing yourself that hard is quite a feat, and I all the work I was writing needed major rewrites and overhauls. I didn’t kid myself, NaNo is an editor-free zone and I don’t care what anyone says, the end result is pure dribble. It’s more important for me now to write quality, instead of quantity. 7 years of word-vomit is enough!
One year I might try doing only 1667 words a day, since that’s a pace I can write at that doesn’t destroy my inner editor, but not just yet. It is a great motivator though, and I’m a huge fan of word wars, so this November I’ve written about 10k more than I normally would have.
6. My current book is chick lit, about an artist in New York trying to get her break, and driving a taxi to get her by. My next book is either going to be my Wizard of Oz dark retelling (click on the poster to see it in full, and read the concept), or my next chick lit series about Paparazzi. Oz is taking some time to develop and research but it’s one of the big projects waiting for me.
I’m very strict on my writing process and only work on one WIP (work in progress) at any time, until it’s finished.
I used to write down all my ideas and start them the moment they struck but I’ve learned over time that if the story is worth writing it will stick around and flourish, so that when the work I’m doing now is completed it will be sitting there waiting for me.
7. Although I’ve been writing for fifteen years, my writing has only crossed the line from ‘unpublishable’ to ‘publishable’ in the past three. This isn’t because of lack of practice, oh no. I hit my 1 million words back in 2003 or so. It’s a combination of experience, skill, and understanding. The biggest contributors were:
- Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools
- Joseph Campbell, author of Hero With A Thousand Faces
- Christopher Vogler, author of The Writers Journey
- Analysis of story, through all varieties of texts both in film and literature
- Teaching myself how to write good dialogue
- Taking risks and chances in my work, creating more refined characters (rather than ones everyone loves)
- PRACTICE AND ACTION– As Anthony Robbins says “Knowledge isn’t power, APPLIED knowledge is power.” Knowledge is potential power waiting for action. In order to get better you must take action to practice new things and change old habits that no longer work for you.
8. I’m really good at shutting off my inner editor. In my first (and often second and third) draft it is just about getting the story down and in the right order. When writing, the editor knows what will happen should they decide to approach.
This has helped me with NaNoWriMo, but also allows me to focus on what the real issue is in the moment, rather than being distracted due to spelling errors, awkward sentences and mixed up descriptions. Editing has it’s time later on, but right now it’s not allowed in the zone.
9. I love editing. I’m sorry, I think I’m a freak amongst writers but I do love editing. I didn’t always, until about year 8 when I really got a grasp on the true potential of editing and what it meant for my work.
The best piece of writing advice I ever heard was:
There is no such thing as a good writer, only a good rewriter.
There’s no writer who has a perfect first draft, and those that say they have a perfect first draft are lying. It’s very possible they worked and reworked a scene until it was completely finished before moving on to the next one, but that’s editing. That means your book still goes through drafts before it is finally finished.
When the first, second and/or third draft is done then I’m ready to work through the editing process. I normally go through 6-7 edits before it’s finally finished. This can often take longer than writing the manuscript in the first place but it is just as important. My first, and sometimes, last, line edit rounds I do back to front. I got this advice given to me in year 5 or so of writing and I’ve never looked back. Editing back to front means you don’t get caught up in the story and are forced to focus on the structure of each line.
10. I write my ideas in the shower. Whiteboard marker + shower tiles = great brainstorming session. The shower is the deep cocoon of pure inspiration, that’s where all the best ideas come from. If you need to write yourself out of a corner, take a shower. If you need to figure out the next scene for your book, take a shower. It’s sort of like each shower is the end of the writer’s rainbow, you just gotta tap into it.
Writing is in my blood, it’s my first love. Although I’m dedicated to design and business, I’m home when I have my WIP in front of me, a cup of tea by my side, and some music playing.